Monday, June 8, 2015

Game of Thrones: Why I Quit After Book Three

First, let me make one thing clear: George R.R. Martin is a brilliant writer and his stuff is powerful, fascinating, compulsively readable and incredibly imaginative. I’ve read all of Dreamsongs Volume I and most of Volume II, and if you have not read these collections of his numerous and wide-ranging works outside the GoT world, I strongly recommend them.

And that very talent as a writer is why I can’t read any more of the Song of Ice and Fire series. I started it with enthusiasm, galloped through the first book rapt by and wrapped up in the amazing saga, read on, and on, and on....

And by the end of the third book I’d had enough. Enough of cruelty, enough of brutality, enough of a world brimful of savagery, merciless, thronged with loathsome characters, where anyone evoking the least flicker of sympathy in the reader is viciously mauled at some point, beaten down into sick misery and suffering. It’s too much, it bothers me too much, to go on wallowing in such a world.

I had a similar reaction to John Sanford’s “Prey” series of detective thrillers. They too are compulsively readable, fast-paced, intriguing – and the criminals Lucas Davenport confronts are horrifying monsters. I think it was the one that ended with the little girl in the well that did me in – just couldn’t bear to enter his world any more.

Am I a weakling, then? Too sensitive? Heaven knows I’ve read some mighty gruesome stuff over the decades and never flinched – though I find my tolerance for such content waning in my waning years. Do I want only fluffy puppies and kittens? Oh, hell, no; I’m currently making my enthralled way through the Vorkosigan Saga, and that’s by no means all sunshine and rainbows. I’m also reading Adam-Troy Castro’s collection of short stories “Her Husband’s Hands”, in small doses; those are harsh and difficult stories too, powerfully affecting because so well written; but by spacing them out between other people’s works I can very much admire and enjoy them.

I’m getting old, time is running out, there are so many books, so little time – maybe it’s just a matter of deciding, don’t waste what time is left on worlds that I find repulsive. I can admire the craftsmanship that created worlds so brilliantly realized that they disturb me, but I don’t have to go there.

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